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Slovak prime minister slams U.S. for missile defense adventure

27.1.2008 - Reuters

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico criticized the United States for bypassing NATO with a plan to deploy a missile defense system in central Europe, calling the project an adventure.

Washington is negotiating with Slovakia's neighbors, Poland and the Czech Republic, on installing interceptor missiles and a radar base on their soil as a protection against attacks by what it calls rogue states, such as Iran or North Korea.

Slovakia's leftist leader Fico said the United States should have discussed any such project with its partners in the NATO alliance.

"Put this issue on the table at NATO, and we will seriously debate it and take a stance," Fico said in a rare meeting with foreign news agencies in Slovakia late on Tuesday. "But we will not support these bilateral adventures."

The U.S. plan has angered Russia, which considers it a threat to its own security. Moscow has offered Washington the use of a radar station in Azerbaijan in exchange for scrapping the missile shield plans in central Europe.

Fico said Moscow's objections were a concern.

"The missile system is a bilateral issue between the United states and Czech Republic, and between the United States and Poland," Fico said. "But it is an issue that is directly concerning us, especially when the other side, Russia, is constantly speaking about aiming its nuclear weapons against those targets.

"And if the targets are a few kilometers away from Slovakia, either to the West, or to the North, that must be making us nervous," he said.

The Czechs have also called for the missile defense plan to be coordinated within NATO.

Another Czech neighbor, Austria, has also criticized the plans to build the radar in the Czech Republic. Its defense minister called it a "provocation" reviving Cold War debates.

Source (British): Reuters  

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